2022 Changes to California Workplace COVID-19 Requirements

February 4, 2022

With the surging Omicron cases, we’ve seen a few recent updates to workplace COVID-19 requirements:

Reminder: Revisions to the California ETS Now In Effect

The California workplace standards were updated in December 2021 (the updated ETS) to bring the current emergency standards in line with the recommendations and requirements outlined by the California Department of Public Health (CDPH). Notable changes to the updated ETS include: 

Updated Face Coverings Requirements.

The definition of ‘face covering’ has been expanded under the updated ETS. The updated definition of a face covering includes: 

  • Surgical masks; 
  • Medical procedure masks, 
  • Respirators;
  • Tightly woven fabric or non-woven material of at least two layers (i.e., fabrics that do not let light pass through when held up to a light source) that completely covers the nose and mouth and is secured to the head with ties, ear loops, or elastic bands that go behind the head. 
  • Gaiters, so long as they have two layers of fabric or are folded to make two layers. 
  • Transparent face coverings or face coverings with a clear plastic panel that meet the definition (other than the requirement to not allow light to pass through). 

Scarfs, ski masks, balaclavas, bandanas, turtlenecks, collars, or any other items that consist of a single layer of fabric are still not considered to be a compliant face covering. 


Revised Testing Requirements. 

Employers are now required to make COVID-19 testing available to employees during paid time and at no cost if an employee was exposed to a close contact in the workplace. The previous exception to this requirement for fully-vaccinated employees has been revoked in response to the surging numbers of breakthrough infections. 

The COVID-19 test must meet the following requirements: 

  • Authorized by the FDA; 
  • Administered in accordance with the authorized instructions; and 
  • Not both self-administered and self-read, unless observed by the employer or an authorized telehealth protector. 


Exclusion Requirements Adjusted to Respond to the Omicron Surge. 

The updated ETS outlines some adjusted exclusion and return to work requirements for employees who have been a close contact to a COVID-19 case. However, the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) has since updated its guidelines and Governor Gavin Newsom has indicated that the CDPH guidance should be followed where the guidance differs. 

Here’s what the CDPH guidance requires: 

  • Anyone who tests positive for COVID-19 must stay home for at least 5 days, regardless of vaccination status. 
  • Employees who are unvaccinated or eligible for the booster vaccine but haven’t yet received it must stay home for at least 5 days if they are a close contact to a COVID-19 case. 
  • Fully-vaccinated employees and employees who are booster-eligible and have received the booster shot do not need to quarantine after a close contact, but they must wear a mask for 10 days. They must also take a test on day 5 and will be required to isolate if they test positive or develop symptoms. 


Training, sick leave, and infection prevention requirements, among others, remain in place. Read our previous coverage of the ETS and the updated ETS for more information.  


If you’re uncertain about your current workplace COVID-19 obligations or you need to update your related policies, reach out. Our team would love to help. 


The materials available at this website are for informational purposes only and not for the purpose of providing legal advice. You should contact your attorney to obtain advice with respect to any particular issue or problem. Use of and access to this website or any of the e-mail links contained within the site do not create an attorney-client relationship between CGL and the user or browser. The opinions expressed at or through this site are the opinions of the individual author and may not reflect the opinions of the firm or any individual attorney.

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